Today, Radiohead have made their ninth studio album, A Moon Shaped Pool, available on Spotify and in physical form. The 11-track, 52-minute LP was originally released on May 8, 2016 via download and select streaming services.
There isn’t a bad song on this album, as we’re taken through a winding, rambling narrative that only Radiohead could deliver. Much of the album revolves around a human culture that appears to be on the brink of total self-destruction amidst climate change and social dysfunction. There are also elements of personal heartbreak, attributed to Yorke’s 2015 breakup with Rachel Owen.
Long-time producer Nigel Godrich worked on A Moon Shaped Pool, which was recorded at La Fabrique Studios in France and RAK Studios in England. Band personnel on the release are Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Ed O’Brien, and Philip Selway. They are supplemented by the London Contemporary Orchestra, who provide the string accompaniment throughout.
Following what many considered to be the least enjoyable and most disappointing album Radiohead have made, 2011’s The King of Limbs, there was some uncertainty about the future of the band. Would they continue in an electronic direction? Would they return to their rock roots? After a long break, in which each of the members pursued other avenues, they came back together and went in an orchestral direction, no doubt led by Jonny Greenwood who since 2003 has established himself as more than just a great guitar player by composing film scores and modern classical music.
The results on A Moon Shaped Pool are extraordinary. What has made Radiohead great is their sheer sonic creativity over the years. No other band sounds like Radiohead, and every Radiohead album stands on its own as a unique work of art. On this album, the band prove they can still give their listeners fresh new music over 20 years after they burst on the scene as one of the most successful and vital rock bands of the ’90s.
Another thing that has made Radiohead great is Thom Yorke’s ability to face down anxiety and make beautiful music out of it. From the first song when he sings, “This is a low flying panic attack,” to the album’s final lyrics of “Just don’t leave, don’t leave,” you can feel the intensity, the immediacy, and the power of his voice. There may not be any radio-friendly vocal hooks on this album, but the performances are truly spellbinding.
Leading up to the album release, Radiohead shared music videos for the first two tracks: “Burn The Witch” and “Daydreaming.” These songs are obvious highlights, as well as “Decks Dark,” “Desert Island Disk,” “Identikit,” “The Numbers,” and the show-stopping closer “True Love Waits” — which has been in the Radiohead repertoire for over 20 years but only now gotten an official studio recording (it was first officially released by the band on their 2001 live album I Might Be Wrong).
Pick up A Moon Shaped Pool on Amazon. You can also stream the full album above for free, via Spotify.
For more music, news, and tour information about Radiohead, check out their Zumic artist page.